phone. The man said he was just minutes from the restaurant, but was stuck
on an inexplicably blocked-off street.
What did his boss want him to do?
The answer was simple: Pull over,
grab the boxes of langoustines and run
as fast as you can. The driver, panting,
made it. Daniel’s pampered patrons
were spared mere lobster. Solex’s impeccable reputation remained intact.
Though Draxler hasn’t figured out
how to control traffic or the weather,
yet, he sends an employee to Newark
Liberty Airport 10 times a week to
facilitate the customs process, which
takes four hours when all goes well. He
uses a particular airline that offers cold-storage shipping and has an admirable
dependability record, but he chuckles
when asked its name. He’s not about to
give away secrets to the competition.
At a time when local sourcing comes
with bragging rights, Solex’s hefty environmental footprint might seem an obstacle. But the rules of elite dining carry
a small exemption for special products
that simply aren’t available nearby—or,
like Oregon ramps, are available weeks
before their Northeast counterparts.
While Solex’s growing roster of
Stateside products has reduced its environmental impact somewhat, Draxler’s
sales curve shows just how badly some
people want far-flung delicacies. While
he won’t divulge annual sales, he will
say that monthly gross sales are about
50 times higher than when he began.
“I’m never happy,” he says of his constant hunt for the next great thing. “I’m
driven.” Since acquiring the Catsmo
smokehouse, he has partnered with
Boulud in a line of smoked fish, sold by
Dean & DeLuca and Gourmet Garage,
while Whole Foods and the Meat House
in Summit sell Catsmo-branded smoked
salmon. He opened an e-commerce site
last year and also sells select products
through Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table
and a few Whole Foods stores.
Not that he’ll ever go mainstream. “I
am not the guy for everybody,” he says.
“I am the guy for somebodies.” ■
Karen Stabiner teaches journalism at
Columbia University and is at work on a
book, Generation Chef, about the opening
of a young chef’s first restaurant.
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